Sarah Millington, Health and Social Care and Child Development Subject Advisor
World Health Day is a designated day to encourage individuals and communities to take action towards improving the health and well-being of people around the world. On 7 April 1948, The World Health Organisation (WHO) held the first World Health Assembly. This date has since been celebrated each year for the last 75 years and is officially marked as World Health Day.
On this 75th anniversary this year, World Health Day will look back at the key achievements of the WHO that have helped improve the quality of life for many and look to the future to improve the lives of more to come.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) was created to promote health, keep people safe and serve the vulnerable so everyone, everywhere, can attain the highest level of health and well-being.
In recent times you may have heard the WHO mentioned more than ever before due to the Covid 19 pandemic. During this time WHO were working with member states to advise how to tackle this new virus. However, whilst the pandemic was going on, WHO was also responding to a further 87 world health emergencies.
The WHO has been at the frontline of all major health emergencies, providing the advice for a joined-up response across the world, using data and information so the world can tackle it together.
The WHO’s commitment for health for all since 1948 is based on the notion that all humans are equal and deserve access to care. It called for us to value all human lives following the destruction of World War 2, stating that health is a fundamental right of every human being and a foundation for building peace and security.
One way that the WHO is promoting health for all is by alleviating deadly diseases. They are working towards this goal through vaccination and immunisation programmes and by providing guidance on infection control. There is evidence that this is working because smallpox was eradicated in 1980 and the global polio programme has resulted in a 99.9% reduction in the spread of polio.
The childhood vaccine programme we have today was established by the WHO in 1974 to protect society from life-threatening diseases. The WHO is working on a vaccination agenda so that everyone, everywhere can benefit from vaccines for good health by 2030. Through a combination of an increased number of skilled health practitioners, vaccination programmes and an integrated management of health, mortality among children under five and pregnant mothers has halved since 2000.
In 2019, the WHO launched a Global Health for Peace programme to accelerate the provision of health care in conflict zones. Its role is to negotiate humanitarian and health services where the world sees war and health emergencies. The Director-general of the WHO, Dr Tedros, has stated that “there cannot be health without peace, and there cannot be peace without health”. This has already made a difference to global health and I am sure it will continue to do so in coming years.
The WHO has issued policies and guidelines that have been adopted globally. The guidelines that we follow in the UK in relation to health, will have stemmed from a WHO policy or guideline which we have adopted to suit our society. For example, the WHO’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted in 1981. Now called ‘the code’, this was put in place to regulate the marketing of breast milk substitutes to promote safe and adequate nutrition for infants. The health of babies is so important that the usual rules of controlling marketing and competition should not apply to products intended for feeding babies. The code sets the standard for the labelling and quality of products and for how the law should be implemented and monitored within countries worldwide.
Another example is the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is a health treaty for the control within the tobacco industry, protecting present and future generations from the devastating impacts of tobacco use. This treaty played a role in one of the biggest public health interventions we have seen in the last 16 years, the smoking ban in enclosed public places in 2007. Before this you may have found public places full of cigarette smoke.
Our health is now not just about living without disease but also achieving a state of physical, mental, and social well-being. The WHO has created the first global strategy for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. They know that poor physical health can have an effect on mental and social health. The Mental Health Global Action Programme and the Cervical Cancer Elimination Programme both provide guidance to countries so that people can live longer and in good health.
The condition and environment we live in play a big part in our health. The biggest threat that humanity is facing today are health issues relating to climate change, with changes in our climate impacting on air quality, water, food supply, sanitation, and shelter.
We may think this will only impact countries where we see climate extremes, but we are all connected. For example, if a country that produces food that we need is affected by a climate emergency, there will be a knock-on effect for the UK’s food supply. The WHO launched its Action on Climate Change and Health in January 2023 and so far 62 countries have committed to the alliance.
From vaccinations to laws protecting your health, from raising awareness of disease to promoting shared environmental goals: so many of our health programmes and campaigns have stemmed from a WHO global initiative.
On this World Health Day we can all become more aware of the need to stay healthy and alleviate disease. See what you could do to help promote Health for All in the workplace, at school or at home.
If you have any comments or questions, you can email us at email@example.com or tweet us @OCR_Health. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Sarah joined OCR after teaching Health and Social Care and Child Development over a period of 16 years. Having been a teacher, subject lead and moderator within her career, she has planned and developed subjects to meet the need of her students to allow them to become independent learners, focusing on effective teaching and learning skills. She has experienced and survived several qualification changes: GCSEs to Cambridge Nationals, and A Levels to Cambridge Technicals. In her spare time she enjoys open water sea swimming, travelling and cooking. Pie and cake are key favourites.